TO THE AFRICA MISSIONARIES (WHITE PADRI) E
TO THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF OUR LADY OF AFRICA (WHITE SISTERS)
Friday, 8 February 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
I welcome you with joy on the occasion of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Society of Missionaries of Africa and of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa. I thank your Superiors General for the words they have addressed to me, and I wish to express my cordial greeting and my spiritual closeness to you and, through you, to all the members of your Institutes present in Africa and in other regions of the world. . Thanks to you, for the service to the mission of the Church, lived with passion and generosity, in fidelity to the evangelical intuitions of your common founder, Cardinal Lavigerie.
During the past three years, you have prepared to celebrate this jubilee. As members of the great "Lavigerie family", you have returned to your roots, you have looked at your history with gratitude, to enable you to live your present commitment with a renewed passion for the Gospel and to be sowers of hope. Together with you I give thanks to God, not only for the gifts he has given to the Church through your Institutes, but also and above all for the fidelity of his love, which you celebrate in this Jubilee. May this jubilee year strengthen in you the certainty that "worthy of faith is God, from whom you have been called to communion with his son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1: 9). May your consecration, your ministry be able to manifest concretely, in your fraternal life and in your various commitments, the fidelity of God's love and his closeness, to sow the hope in the hearts of those who are wounded, tested, discouraged, and they feel so often abandoned.
Dear friends, you know: when Monsignor Lavigerie, then archbishop of Algiers, was guided by the Spirit to found the Society of the Missionaries of Africa, and then the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters, he had in his heart the passion for the Gospel and the desire to announce it to everyone, becoming "all to all" (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). For this reason, your roots are marked by the mission ad extra: it's in your DNA. So, in the footsteps of the Founder, your first concern, your holy restlessness, is "that so many of our brothers live without the strength, the light and the consolation of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith that welcomes them, without a horizon of meaning and life "(Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 49). But, in the light of the journey made up to now from your foundation, you know that the proclamation of the Gospel is not synonymous with proselytism; it is that dynamic that leads us to be close to others to share the gift received, the encounter of love that changed your life and led you to choose to consecrate life to the Lord Jesus, the Gospel for the life and salvation of world. It is always for him, with him and in him that the mission is lived. Therefore, I encourage you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, so as never to forget that the true missionary is above all a disciple. Take care to cultivate the particular bond that unites you to the Lord, by listening to his Word, the celebration of the sacraments and the service of the brothers, so that your actions may manifest his presence, his merciful love, his compassion for those to whom the Spirit sends you and leads you. May the celebration of your jubilee help you become "nomads for the Gospel", men and women who are not afraid to go to the deserts of this world and to seek together the means to accompany the brothers to the oasis which is the Lord, so that the living water of his love will extinguish all their thirst.
I hope that this Jubilee Year will also contribute to developing the fraternal bonds between you, so that the proclamation of the Gospel can not be lived except through an authentic missionary communion. With the power of the Holy Spirit, be witnesses of hope that does not disappoint (see Rom 5: 5), despite the difficulties. In fidelity to your roots, do not be afraid to risk yourselves on the roads of the mission, to witness that "God is always news, which continually urges us to leave and change places to go beyond the known, to the suburbs and the frontiers" (Exhort. ap. Gaudete et exsultate, 135). The Holy Spirit makes you builders of bridges among men. Where the Lord has sent you, may you help to grow a culture of encounter, be at the service of a dialogue that, while respecting differences, can draw wealth from the diversity of others. And I thank you in particular for the work you have already done in favor of dialogue with Islam, with the Muslim sisters and brothers. With the style and simplicity of your way of life, you also manifest the need to take care of our common home, the earth. Finally, in the wake of Cardinal Lavigerie, you are called to sow hope, fighting against all today's forms of slavery; making you close of the little ones and the poor, of those who wait, in the suburbs of our society, to be recognized in their dignity, to be welcomed, protected, raised, accompanied, promoted and integrated.
With this hope, I entrust you to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa. I have learned the Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the members of your communities, and I invoke God's blessing on those whose life you share, where the Lord has sent you. And please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.